moved that Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, which calls on the federal government to encourage the use of existing federal initiatives in order to increase awareness among Canadian women about the impact of having dense breast tissue and the complications it poses for breast cancer screening.
Breast cancer touches many Canadian women and their families and friends, and is the most common form of cancer in women. I know this is something Canadians from coast to coast to coast care deeply about. Just last month Barrie held its annual CIBC Run for the Cure in support of breast cancer research. I saw 2,000 residents out early on a cold and wet Sunday morning to support the battle against breast cancer. Runs like that occur across the country because Canadians are deeply concerned.
In my community of Barrie, in less than 12 months, the Royal Victoria Hospital's regional cancer care centre will open. There have been literally thousands of fundraising events over the last five years to support this very large cancer centre. It will help battle a variety of cancers, including of course, breast cancer.
This year it is estimated that about 23,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 5,000 women will die from this insidious disease. Over their lifetime, one in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This is very difficult to accept. It touches many women and their loved ones. Sixty-four Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 14 will die of breast cancer every day. It is my sincere hope that over time this bill will help reduce those troubling numbers. Health sectors in other areas of the world are beginning to more aggressively target dense tissue to enable early detection of breast cancer.
It is important for all of us to be aware of the fact that screening for breast cancer can save lives. Providing women with accurate information about screening will help them make decisions that are right for them. The federal government supports a number of initiatives to support Canadians dealing with cancer.
Bill C-314 aims to raise awareness about dense breast tissue and breast cancer screening. It will help women and their doctors make well-informed decisions regarding breast cancer screening. It includes a number of elements, which I will briefly outline. I will also address initiatives currently under way to address them.
First, this bill requires the Government of Canada to assess whether gaps in information exist relating to breast density in the context of breast cancer screening. Second, this bill requires that approaches be identified, where needed, to improve information for women in order to: one, address the challenges of detecting breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue; and two, raise awareness concerning these challenges. Third, the bill requires the existing Canadian breast cancer screening initiative to share information on dense breast tissue and its relationship to breast cancer screening and any follow-up procedures that may be deemed necessary.
Canada is fortunate to have screening programs for breast cancer. The provinces and territories deliver these programs to detect breast cancer before it has spread so that treatment can be started. We are learning more and more from scientific research about breast cancer and its risk factors. New and better treatments are being developed. However, there is still much to learn. We know that good information is fundamental to the decisions that each of us makes with the advice of our doctors about our own health. This dialogue is the key to doctor-patient relationships.
Let me take a few moments to explain how the issue of breast density relates to breast cancer screening. First, breast density refers to the amount of tissue in the breast. Dense breasts have more tissue. Breast cancer screening is done using a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast. A woman's breast density can affect the accuracy of a mammogram and it may be more difficult for a doctor to see an abnormality. There could be cancer present if the breast tissue is dense because both cancer and dense breast tissue appear white on mammograms.
High breast density is also linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, although it is not yet known why this is the case. We also do not know how common dense breast tissue is among Canadian women, although some statistics point to the fact that it could be as high as 40%. Providing women with information of what is known about breast density would help them make well-informed decisions about screening and would open the door for women to engage in follow-up procedures, such as an MRI or ultrasound, if they have dense breast tissue which could skew the mammogram.
In addition to raising awareness on breast density, the bill recognizes the responsibility of the provinces and territories for providing breast cancer screening. Provincial and territorial breast screening programs are invaluable in the early detection of breast cancer in Canadian women.
As noted in the bill, the federal government plays a role in breast cancer screening by facilitating the identification and adoption of effective practices in screening. We also support the sharing of information on screening methods and outcomes through our federal roles in research and surveillance.
Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, our government provides funding to researchers to investigate the full spectrum of cancer prevention and control. One of the priorities of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is early detection of cancer. The CIHR works with partners both nationally and internationally to advance its research priorities, including breast cancer research.
Our government has demonstrated its commitment to breast cancer screening by investing in the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. We work with provincial and territorial governments to measure the performance of breast cancer screening programs across Canada. This means that all jurisdictions regularly share information on the screening programs and discuss what they are learning. They share best practices, discuss the challenges they are facing and the questions that are important to all of them.
Information sharing about ways to improve these programs ensures that women receive the full benefits of early detection. This includes providing women with information about all aspects of breast cancer screening. The federal, provincial and territorial national committee for the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative provides opportunities for provincial and territorial governments to work together to develop their screening recommendations and approaches. This committee is comprised of medical professionals and key stakeholders.
For example, the committee is currently looking at breast cancer mortality and improving screening for underserviced populations. We have the Canadian breast cancer screening database, which is a source of valuable information on breast cancer screening. Participating provincial and territorial screening programs contribute to the national database, which is used to monitor and evaluate breast cancer screening programs. Non-government organizations play a vital role in this process as well.
I am proud to say that our government is taking action on cancer through our continued investment in the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer which has led to the implementation of the Canadian strategy for cancer control. The partnership is the first of its kind and was established by our Conservative government. It covers the full spectrum of cancer control, from prevention to palliative and end-of-life care, policy to practice, and from research to health system applications.
Together with the cancer community, the partnership is accelerating the use of effective cancer prevention and control strategies. Its objectives are to reduce the number of cancer cases, minimize cancer-related deaths and improve patient quality of life.
In March of this year, our Prime Minister announced renewed funding of $250 million over five years, beginning on April 1, 2012. This will allow the partnership to continue its invaluable work. In the words of the Prime Minister:
We are making progress on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and hope, and in tracking our progress closely, the partnership is leading us on the path to a cure.
The partnership plays a key role in providing information to women on cancer screening, which aligns with the spirit of this bill. The bill also recognizes the important role of organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in providing reliable information that supports women in making decisions about their health.
All of us are familiar with the Canadian Cancer Society. This national volunteer organization works in cancer prevention, research, advocacy, information and support for all cancers.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is a national volunteer organization dedicated to working toward a future without breast cancer. The foundation funds, supports and advocates for research, education and awareness programs, early diagnosis and effective treatment, as well as a positive quality of life for those living with breast cancer.
Women's health organizations, such as the Canadian Women's Health Network, raise awareness on many health issues faced by women in Canada, including breast cancer.
Working with the above-listed breast cancer stakeholders, the federal government will continue to raise awareness through existing initiatives on the issue of breast density in the context of breast cancer screening. These stakeholders will be very critical in our battle to raise awareness about breast density.
This bill is particularly timely given that October is breast cancer awareness month. Through efforts to raise awareness, Canadian women and their families can become more informed about breast cancer. They will learn about breast density and its implications for breast cancer screening. They will be able to make well-informed decisions based on this knowledge.
I would like to thank Andrea Paine at the Ministry of Health in Ottawa, Dr. Rob Ballagh of Barrie, Mike Richmond from Toronto, and my assistant in Barrie, Shawn Bubel, for their assistance in the drafting of the bill.
The bill provides an opportunity for the Government of Canada and the House to recognize the critical importance of raising awareness about breast density and breast cancer screening.
It would be an honour for me to have the support of all members in the House for this bill. Too many families have been touched by this form of cancer. I am hopeful that by ensuring women get the information they need which could lead to early detection, this legislation could potentially save lives.